A Remarkably Good Time at a Class Reunion

I received news of our 50-year class reunion about a year ago. A class of 152 high school students would be asked to reunite in Columbus, NE on Labor Day weekend – and yet I really didn’t know a single one of them. And it was a confession made to me by Margaret Ericksen Egleston in an email—we weren’t part of the popular crowd—that made me think: Why would I want to attend this reunion of once vibrant teenagers whose lives I crossed paths with at a dull, low point in my life? A time where my actions were monitored by a highly controlling mother who believed the world would end (“Armageddon”) before I reached the age of twenty.

Pat, Margaret, Sue, Jani

But after I thought about it, the more I liked the idea of attending. Maybe I would finally get to know people who I should have made friends with during that troubling period in my life. I must confess that I wanted to visit with Donna Ewert Dubsky and Margaret. Both of them had read and enjoyed my book, Growing Up in Mama’s Club, which describes my childhood.

My wife Helen and I organized our summer so that the class reunion would be the frosting on the cake. We left our Tucson home on June 30 and spent fifteen days at a rental home in Estes Park, CO. Then it was off to stay with friends in Long Pine, NE. (If you’re interested, I blogged that visit in July.) We followed that with four days in downtown Chicago and over a month in Grand Rapids, MI where we raised our children and where I spent 33 years of my working life. We arrived in Columbus Thursday evening and enjoyed an excellent meal at Dusters. On Friday morning, I visited with my 90-year-old mother, who still believes Armageddon is imminent. We showed up at the VFW Hall at 5:30 PM, where the reunion commenced.

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The Eradicator & His Sweet Thang

When our La Paloma neighbors and friends, Ken and Maureen Hake, invited us to spend two days with them at their remote cabin in North Central Nebraska, my wife, Helen, and I jumped at the opportunity. It was a part of the world we had never explored. And, Ken and Maureen are game people, our kind of people. But little did we know what a special treat this experience—spending time with Ken and Maureen in this very unique environment—would turn out to be.

The Hake’s three-year-old, well-designed 900 sq ft cabin is the perfect destination point for two couples who want to get lost in nature, play games and to get to know, to really get to know, each other better. The cabin is located in a pristine forest of ancient Ponderosa Pine on the edge of a fertile 260 ft canyon wall. While we couldn’t confirm it, Ken claims that a meandering stream teeming with native brown and rainbow trout awaits anyone who ventures a long slide down the steep canyon walls. The official mailbox is Long Pine, NE, but to access their forest home, one must drive ten miles on a dirt road north off Highway 20.

If you were blindfolded and airlifted into the cabin, it would be easy to believe that you were in the mountains of Colorado. It’s a very special place with a plethora of both whitetail and mule deer, giant turkeys, porcupines, blue birds, pine martins, rattlesnakes, bobcats and more. At night, the stars come to visit and put on a spectacular display of lights. The sunrises from our bedroom are what I would love to see when I wake up in the morning every day for the rest of my life.
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A Mini Vacation in Northern Arizona

My wife, Helen, and I celebrated our status as new Arizona residents by taking a 5-day, 1,300-mile mini vacation in order to feast ourselves on some of Mother Nature’s most scenic southwest canyons, buttes, mesas, monoliths, rocks and monuments without going to the Grand Canyon or Sedona.

We started our journey on Sunday, June 13, and headed for Globe, a mining town so named because of a globe-shaped piece of almost pure silver found in the area in 1870. Several miles later, we were treated to a 30-minute drive through picturesque, 2,000-feet-deep Salt River Canyon. Here the colorful sedimentary rock layers are visible from the road for miles.

Then it was on to Show Low, elevation 6,500 feet, where Tucson Desert Rats like we’ve just become can escape the summer heat. Here you can bask under 100-foot-tall pine trees or fish for feisty trout in the pristine streams in the area, but this was not our destination for the day.

Our goal was the southern entrance—Rainbow Forest—of Petrified Forest National Park. And words can not describe the thrill of seeing so many brilliantly colored, petrified logs strewn over this first stop of what is a 93,533 acre park.

About 225 million years ago, these logs we could touch and see close up were giant trees clinging to an eroding riverbank before falling into a fast-moving stream that carried them to wet, swampy lowlands. They were finally submerged in water and buried under volcanic ash sediments rich in silica before time and Nature’s handiwork did its magic. Silica replaced the wood until the logs were virtually turned into stone, with iron oxide and other minerals staining the silica to produce rainbow colors.

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What Blog?

I started this blog with good intentions. I wouldn’t let two or three days pass without making a contribution. But then, my wife, Helen, and I left west Michigan on October 17, migrating south and west for the winter.

The first leg of our semi-annual migration took us 1,275 miles to Houston, Texas, where our son, Keith, lives. This is always a treat because we not only enjoy visiting with him,  we get to spend time with his wife Amy and our eleven-year-old granddaughters, (and twins) Hannah and Katrina. Some of the highlights of our visit with them were hearing the twins sing with a group from their middle school, watching climbers scale the Matterhorn at an IMAX theatre showing, a tour of the traveling 125,000-year-old Lucy exhibit and her Ethiopian birthplace, and being treated to one of the best movies that I have seen in awhile, Michael Clayton.

The last leg of our journey took us 1,100 miles to our Tucson home. And as we neared our high desert home in the Catalina Mountains, we were most grateful for books on tape. We had listened to and thoroughly enjoyed two unabridged books, His Excellency: George Washington, by Joseph Ellis and Wild Swans, by Jung Chang. Both books were well written and narrated stories about how a single man can and did make a significant difference to the history of his country, the USA and China. One was very good and the other was a disaster.

When we arrived back in Tucson there was much that needed to be done to make our house a home. And we had only a week to prepare for houseguests. Visiting with us for five days would be someone I hadn’t seen in almost fifty years. John Hoyle and I were only kids when we last spent quality time together. Ironically, my parents were instrumental into bringing his parents into ”the truth.” Oops. There I go again. I mean the Club. That happened in February of 1952 and we last played together in the fall of 1958. John made contact with me via the Internet in July when he heard about my book, Growing Up In Mama’s Club.

To make a long story short, we had a delightful time with John, his wife Sharon, and their adorable, less than a year old Maltese puppy, Lilly. While they were here, we explored nearby Sabino Canyon, drove to the top of 9,200-feet Mount Lemmon, and just talked and talked and laughed and reminisced.

Now it’s back to writing full time. And I’ve made a decision (gulp!) to dramatically improve the third printing of Mama’s Club, which I expect to have ready by January 2008. What changes do I plan to make? I will report that in subsequent blogs.